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DNR Urges Caution on Minnesota Rivers

April 05, 2005 Water levels on Minnesota rivers can rise without warning any time of the year, especially during the spring thaw. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) advises recreational boaters to be aware of the potential for flooding on the Mississippi, Minnesota and Lower St. Croix rivers, and other canoe and boating routes.

"Flooding inundates the river banks, resulting in hazardous debris in the water," said Tim Smalley with the DNR's Boat and Water Safety program. "This includes both natural and man-made objects that have been swept into the river by high water."

Smalley said debris often floats just at or below the surface of the water, which means boaters may not be able to see the obstruction until it is too late. Because the water is still frigid, boaters could be subject to hypothermia if they take a spill.

The DNR urges all boaters to check river level conditions, which are available on the DNR's Web site www.dnr.state.mn.us, before taking a trip. River level reports for 33 Minnesota rivers are updated weekly from April through October.

The reports are based on automated river level gauges and gauge readings recorded by volunteers. The DNR cautioned boaters that river levels could change dramatically over a short period of time due to inclement weather conditions.

Steve Mueller, river recreation program coordinator for the DNR Division of Trails and Waterways, said, in addition to safety, the river level reports can also assist with planning a successful trip. The DNR manages 26 designated canoe and boating routes throughout the state,
totaling more than 3,400 river miles.

"It is important to know what the conditions are like before paddling down a river," Mueller said. "During the spring, the water level may be too high and too hazardous for a canoe or boat trip."

"Current is another threat," Smalley added. "There is a lot of water flowing through a river system, especially in the spring. This increases both the speed of the river and strength of the current, which makes it more difficult for even an experienced swimmer to stay afloat. This
means it is important to wear a lifejacket at all times, now and throughout the year."

Smalley also suggested that boaters let people know where they are going and when they expect to return from their trip.

Information on the state's 26 canoe and boating routes, including river level reports, water trail maps and outfitters, is available on the DNR's Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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